GEORGETOWN – “I grew up with the obligation of tikkun olam,” recalls Elizabeth Rose of Georgetown. “It defined my life.” Raised in Minneapolis by Orthodox parents who were “big machers” in their Jewish community, serving as presidents of their synagogue and its Sisterhood and raising funds for the Jewish Federation and the United Jewish Appeal, Rose felt destined to carry on the tradition of helping others. She even followed in her mother’s professional footsteps, becoming a social worker.
Once she married and had children, Rose was even more committed to passing on the values she inherited – especially the obligation to heal the world. To that end, she and her husband, Joe Hull, a retired emergency room physician, involved their children in activities for the betterment of others from the time their daughter and son were very young. “We hosted Fresh Air kids for eight years. We went to a homeless shelter on Route 1 to play with children – my daughter had her own organization called Wacky in grade school that did that. And the biggest thing was that we took our kids to Guatemala to create a family identity as one that gave back.”
These days, Rose is juggling a list of activities that would make people half her age collapse with fatigue. As part of her third Master’s degree, the 70-year-old is completing a book about the indigenous people of Guatemala and her family’s work with them over the past 14 years; she is a founder and active participant in the Conversation Cafe of Greater Newburyport, an initiative to increase conversations among those with opposing points of view on controversial topics; and she is chairing the eighth annual Rubbish to Runway ReFashion Show, a fundraiser for the nonprofit Long Way Home. Rubbish to Runway is her brainchild, developed after she happened upon Long Way Home on that family service trip to Guatemala in 2005 to teach English.
Long Way Home, then in its infancy, was planning to build a school in the area of Comalapa. It was to be constructed from recycled trash – walls of tires filled with earth and bottles stuffed with refuse. The exterior became a canvas for folk art motifs that reflected the indigenous culture of the people who live in the area. Rose and her husband became committed to Long Way Home, returning several times before she conceived of Rubbish to Runway as a means to raise funds for the school and its students.
Just as Long Way Home’s school used recycled materials to construct what is now an 18-building complex, so would the designers for Rubbish to Runway use recycled materials to create wearable art. The symmetry made perfect sense to Rose since it reinforced the value of what too often gets discarded.
Rubbish to Runway has grown over the past eight years, to include off shoots in California, Texas, and Canada. The local event on the North Shore, however, remains the largest. This year, it will be hosted by The Governor’s Academy in Byfield on April 27. More than 30 designers whose day jobs vary from scientist to preschool teacher, community organizer to trompe l’oeil painter, will see their creations on the runway. Volunteer models trained by professionals will sashay and strut to the pulses of music and the flashes of colored lights.
Rose, who now serves on the Board of Directors of Long Way Home, hopes this year’s show will raise $30,000 so that more children can attend the school in Comalapa. As she explains, the school teaches the children not only traditional academic skills but also skills that can lift their families out of abject poverty, like how to build water storage tinacos, energy-efficient stovetops, and composting toilets.
What does Rose do in her free time? Well, she is in four writers’ groups, belongs to the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center and Temple Emanu-El in Haverhill, and goes to the gym four times a week.
Rubbish to Runway will be at The Governor’s Academy in Byfield on April 27. Tickets are available at rubbishtorunway.org.